Palette Change

She feels sick, but she is not the type to tell anyone that that is going through her head. They always expect her to feel great about everything anyway. She is always ready to lend an ear. People come to her. There is no one she goes to.

The sun is weak in the sky today. Weird that the ¬†clouds look so dramatic. A bird lands on the feeder and wrestles for a second; shouldn’t be that hard, and it does get what it needs. Everything shaded oppressive – she knows she needs to change the palette, but how?

She gets dressed and decides to take herself downtown – visit the kite garden; look at the fractal butterfly chaos sculptures; go to Foetus Dreaming Park – where they pipe in self-proliferating ambient visuals and sonic from elected babies sleeping brains. A bug-thug squirts her with the legal limit three minute shopping spree meme, but she counters and fires her patented hack that makes anyone sprayed thereafter want to burn down stores. She laughs.

Some people see this place as hostile but it is an ecosystem like any other – she knows how to surf through; she is minimal impact and maximum yield. The kite garden towers above the city – offers a vertiginous perspective twisting through kaleidoscope colours, narratives dancing amidst random bursts of information all folded up in tesseracting pieces of brightly coloured paper and sticks. She spends half an hour their. Composes and discards a haiku. Buys some Miso soup. Moves on to the Butterfly Engine.

Today there is an interplay occuring – in one corner we have Euclidean geometry, and in the other non-Euclidean. It cycles fast, soundtracked with ambient bursts, feedback squawks and general whitenoise and found-sound. Too chaotic for today – too confusing. She tongues a tab and feels the voidy numbness. Off to epic scale baby art.

She gets kind of fluttery around all this, but it calms her. There is something vast and oceanic about the dreams these little beings paint for the city to enjoy. Foetus Dreaming Park – not always so peaceful, sometimes political, but now an agreed asset. She sat there under the dream of three month old’s prenatal picture of heaven and heard the soft keening of a mother’s heartbeat, and she wept. It set something loose in her; freed up some part ¬†to move that no one ever noticed or touched. Her day brightened. It was time to go home.

Kernel Pop

The future screams. It is not a comforting sound. Tap tap tap at the side of the head – his TV-eye has bad reception. He watches as the group scoping him to see whether he might be plunder-worthy are bringing their tech to bear on breaking through his nano-baffle. The dispersal pattern, his dress, and his general demeanour might suggest to most that he is not a vulture-worthy pick-over, but these wolves are a little smarter than your average bears.

A car pulls up in the parking lot. A Texas steps out and moves towards the building – people part and let him through. He’s holstered and a strong and silent type that invites no kind of close quarters consideration. Is he here to reload though? That’s what they are wondering. Why is he so far out of his jurisdiction? That is what they are wondering.

Pointer doesn’t like these bastards getting so close. He unleashes a low level meme-loop to crash their poke and prod routines. Is he going to get home safe? He thinks about calling Piecer Delivery whose motto is “Twelves Inches and Six Shots to Take You Home!”. He doesn’t want to have to kill anyone but he is a getting a little desperate as they follow him around.

He sets all of his weapon systems to stand-by with heat and proximity triggered decision making capabilities. This is the last time he comes out this late to the supermarket. How stupid is he? Popcorn does not balance out very well when you weight it against your life. They are prodding him and playing with his security to test its limits, but his security isn’t that stupid; it acts when it needs to.

When the right hook swings in, tiger in his tank roars and bites back harder than any of them were expecting. And then all of them are on the back foot. Too late. His defensive has gone offensive to handle this issue. He is firing heavy duty body shots at them while his locked in and locked on exo-skeleton is moving him towards home at a rapid clip.

Over his should Pointer sees Texas get in the middle of their mess, twigging immediately to what they were doing, and he cleans up. What a mess. Still, now he has his popcorn and can watch his movie in peace.

truly homeless

They step over him. He doesn’t wow them with the shell game anymore. He doesn’t do the street magic he picked up from watching carefully anymore. There are no amusing little anecdotes on the placards he sets around himself to request money. Give money or don’t – it has nothing to do with him. He knows that no one wants to speak to him, because he is a non-person.

Except her. She sits down cross-legged opposite him.

‘You gave up,’ she says ‘And that’s wrong, because you know the war is still going on.’

She chuckles: ‘Now, does that make you a traitor, or does that just make you a coward?’

‘I’m so tired.’

‘I’m so disappointed. Do you know how many bodies I have dragged around to fight this thing? How long I have lived out here in the cold? Out here in the dog-piss alleys? Do you have any conception? I may be alternative girl culture cute for the moment, but I was dragging an old man carcass around less than ten years ago. The standards are dropping though. You, Mercutio – you used to be someone I could rely on. The rapier wit turned to thick-tongued self pity – what’s that worth? Not a damned sight, right?’

‘Girl, stop harassing that man,’ said a half aware emissary from the shining kingdom of society.

‘Old lady, step away from something you do not understand. I commend your concern as a citizen, but we are of another world, and in that place you have no jurisdiction.’

The old lady stepped away with a confused expression on her face.

‘What would you have me do, Titania?’

‘Ah, you are a leaky battery indeed if you charge me with providing the mission with which you were instilled back when you stepped away from the warm streets of the shared dream.’

‘Yes, indeed – that is exactly the problem. I am truly homeless.’

‘What a sorry state of affairs. What magic would it take to restore you? Charity? A Death? A victory? None of it is cheap, and none of it presents at the asking. It requires some doing; it always did.’

With a flourish, summoned from somewhere where the dream still sparked, he tap danced through the parking lot. She smiled at him. He smiled at her. She bumped fists with him – time to continue fighting that war again.

It Tastes Of Sour Jazz

He is chewed fingernails, bloody cuticles, he is gum disease, he is fidget, St Vitus Dance. He makes them all uncomfortable. He has been smoking powdered baby for a week non-stop and the painted clouds that thought bubble above his head are nightmare landscapes of imagined futures and pasts that smell like rotten meat. No one wants him to detox because this slow reveal just shows what a little pustule of poison he is. They want Clancy to be dead already.

She is a different matter. If boners were iron filings she would be the magnet making them dance. Everyone loves her. She’s been smoking Kahlo, but she has a drift cloud screen that pumps out her visual poetry in a much more aesthetic way than he has ever been capable. So you ask, what the issue? They love her and they hate him – seems obvious what they should do, doesn’t it? Except that Butler loves Clancy, and she somehow pulls something good out of him that nourishes her in a way that no one else has been able to do.

Vampiring the two of them, drawing all their energy from the interactions of these two pulsars, it is kind of fitting that as failure rears its ugly gap-toothed head above the parapet and takes an arrow in the eye, that the leeches should suffer as much as the principal actors.

It tastes of sour jazz. The plant that is growing weed-like in the petrol-rainbowed puddle is a fractal challenge that creaks out of a cocoon of melody into a tottering architecture of feedback and electronic blips. This whole place made sense – the maps led where you wanted them to, and then they started to disagree, just like that. How does location break down like that? Walk in the direction of one place and find yourself somewhere else.

Get enough people taking enough different drug-lines and the harmonic frequencies start to attack some deep crystalline structure of reality and pull it apart. The hologram was stroking – left and right rupturing apart and one side going spastic and lazy. Things just didn’t look the same.

Clancy as an old man is sat there writing an elegy for Butler, and he remembers her as Dorothy Parker speaking through a vision of Snow White. He was Bukowski wearing a Bogarde mask. He is thinking of a rare moment where they were sober. Because he writes it down, and because the new dreaming vampires read it and incorporate it into their philosophy, his nostalgia inadvertently saves the world.

It tastes like cotton candy. It smells like vanilla. There is a hummingbird marking time as it drinks nectar. This is the word in random motion.

the mirror room

It was an intersect point that could reconcile different vibrational frequencies, and therefore allow interdimensional communication between different iterations of the same agent. The Quantum Agency had been running them on and off for close to fifty years. The weakening integrity of the spacetime structure in several adjacent areas of localspace surely had nothing to do with their operation.

Golding looked at the sixty year old version of himself and the female version of himself, and he was unsure whether he disliked them because of who and what they were, or whether they just showed to him something he loathed in himself. They had to meet anyway – all brought together by the spindle-line running through the multiversal nexus. It was never pleasant – relativistic time and the effects of stepping back into your own spatio-temporal index felt like a more distorting version of the nitrogen bends.

They were trying to run to ground a group of Freelance Editors who were operating off some kind of Dadaist program and had been making a pig’s ear of the throughline. Agents would crash in, crash out, change appearance – they were having trouble maintaining individual subtext these days, only able to maintain the supertextual truth that the individual in the seat is an agent. It could make for disorientating meetings, but it was what they were trained for.

Golding had been edge-running a bleed-zone in South London all week, trying to peg who were the pawns and who the grandmasters; the map of Tooting high street didn’t look anything like it had a week ago. Who would remember? Only him. Sixty year old said that the head honcho was Peregrine Soot from his dimension, and female said that his assistant was Delius Herg from her dimension, and that they were operating from the work of Hugo Serin.

Two varying kinds of reality anchors meant the need of two types of disruptors – that was what made these collaborations invaluable.

‘We’re looking at Colony Collapse imminently, we won’t meet again,’ said sixty year old. ‘The spatio-temporal key-stones of this dimension were logic-bombed last week. Last week I was eighteen. Entropy is accelerating.’

‘We have an integrity issue too,’ said female. ‘This meeting is our attempt to at least help you – to do something before we cease to exist. That’s the one comfort in these Mirror Rooms, they let you see there are other possibilities.’

‘It was nice knowing you,’ he said, and he knew it sounded cold, but he had work to do, and he had to get to it quickly.

The assembled team, the manufactured disruptors, the location – all of it in place. Now they just had to wait for them to show up.

the act of translation

dead astronauts collecting on the windscreen. time buckles and some unknown agreement retracts the laws of physics. he is in notional space and the atmosphere is a little strange; doesn’t seem to work the same way as navigating physical space. some days it is like flying through the heart of a remixed scrapbook … some brion gysin, lee ‘scratch’ perry dub session version of reality. somewhere in the distance augustus pablo, recast as a god, chuckles as he coughs out huge clouds of cannabis creation.

when he set off in HMS headfuck he, for some reason, hadn’t expected it to be quite this strange. he had slipped under the semiotic skin of the universe and he was finding the syllogistic logic broken and the syntax coming on like some glossolalia cut-up equivalent of cognitive dissonance. jenny looked kind of happy – like she had managed to plug into william burroughs head and now she had become a walking talking orgone generator.

what were they hoping to get to? well, the idea was that they were going to find their way between the apparently sane surface of text universe and seemingly insane subtext; the context engines were propelled through the space in their act of translation – which served to get them where they wanted to go and explained to them where they had been.

three days into the more extreme symptoms and memory started to leak; cognition started to curdle, and neither of them really recognised the other. what could they do? there was no way to input the data they needed to control the situation – the terminal was broken. or it wasn’t. just maybe it wasn’t. something was happening – maybe the something they had been looking for. time stretched, space collapsed, and they found new meaning.

it would take some time to understand it all. or maybe it wouldn’t.

Never Tired Of Hanging Around

He has enough independent wealth to do whatever he likes. He likes to be around humanity stripped raw – something he has found harder since his worth grew a hundredfold. So what is he doing today? He is sat in the gridlock he spent the early morning driving to find, wishing really hard for it, driving just well enough not to die, and just badly enough that he might be a stone sending out ripples across the surface on the pond and create the perfect storm that would bring this standstill into being.

He likes standing in line. He likes waiting rooms. He will get himself embroiled in all kinds of things he should probably keep out of, just to feel that peculiar pressure of people packed in like sardines and feeling uncomfortable; tension building. Is this Freudian womb desire? Is this, as his hypnotist told him, derived from that past life experience of being buried alive in a mass grave? Too complicated – drive towards something simpler.

He adjusted himself inside his tight blue jeans. Odd – a boner? In such a sexless and sex-thought-free life his body acting this way actually surprises him. Was he unconsciously aroused by the girl in the convertible next door? Her smile curdles into a sneer when the light shining in her eyes lessens and she sees he is older than she thought he was at first – she doesn’t need or want a sugar daddy; she is an independent woman. He turns his head and smiles to himself, a thing he knows she would misconstrue. He doesn’t mind witnessing arguments but he doesn’t want to be part of one.

The horns have been getting louder. The colourful epithets are getting more colourful. It is music to him. For him this was something he did a lot. Not many people knew about it, but those who did wondered if there was something loose in his noggin. He felt he was totally sane, and that these actions he indulged in actually contributed to that. This was going to last quite a while.

His money brought him in contact with those people who wanted to find some way to wrestle control of his life from him for his own good, and those who worked hard to make it known it was not important and then it came to occupy a different kind of place in their relationship. Sat here, all this humanity pressed in close, this felt real – it was artificial, but it gave him what he needed. Hendrix came on playing Crosstown Traffic – what a perfect day.

See Horse Bleed

Look through the right eye. Look through the left eye. Look through both. Binocular vision is an interesting thing, makes him feel a little alien within his own skull when he becomes aware of it. He thinks of the idea of the bicameral mind. He wonders about the holographic universe. And then he ponders how having someone to talk to can have a similar deepening of perception.

He is alone. He is confused. And all the people in the cafe move around him unaware. They smile – and his lazy reflection fools their surface read. He comes here for this, even just for this … it’s something. It is something.

She refills his coffee cup, and he salutes her and she giggles. If she weren’t this friendly to everyone it might mean something, but it doesn’t. The country-fried breakfast sausage platter tasted good – he might regret it later, but for now it hits all the right spots. He eyes up the pies – he is thinking chocolate velvet, and maybe pumpkin. A couple of slices. He is getting out at least, right? Right.

How long has it been? How long is it since the break-up seemed like a legitimate excuse for the depression? Did it ever? It stretches thin over everything and it was a worn drumskin from early on. He doesn’t even have the energy to pull off even a vague echo of the early rhythm he used to throw into the patter that became his rehearsed excuse. He feels sad. And some of that sadness is that he keeps relying on this shorthand distancing mechanism to handle people. Keep pushing and see how many people continue to push back – it saps the energy.

A mouthful of chocolate velvet. A mouthful of pumpkin pie. A mouthful of coffee. He smiles like a big kid. The waitress sees him transformed into the younger man he has forgotten how to be most days, and it pulls forth the smiling younger woman that she has forgotten how to be. The moment is brief but it is a a little sacred interlude in the everyday.

He remembers the seahorse he saw at the aquarium last week, he remembers the facts about them – the whole male pregnancy thing, which frees the female up to produce more eggs. Wasn’t he a seahorse for a while? He smiles. They called it Couvade Syndrome, named for the old spell that used to be cast to transfer the pain of childbirth to the man. But as she said – he didn’t really know what it was like to have a life growing inside him – something spiritual and not purely physical. For him it was a symptom. He told her he felt the loss like she did, but even as he said it he knew that couldn’t ever be true. It was the wrong thing to say. That thin tenuous link between them ruptured and blew away in the strong wind of her grief. He did feel grief, but it felt like such a selfish thing.

Another mouthful of chocolate velvet. Another mouthful of pumpkin pie. They have turned to mush. Another mouthful of coffee. It tastes lukewarm and muddy. He doesn’t even know that he is crying. Anyone who sees it turns away. This isn’t the place for that kind of thing. A middle aged man crying in a family diner? Who ever heard of such a thing? It just isn’t right.

A Random Word For Random

Language roulette spin. He touched down on the freshly laid tarmac a day ago. This whole place smells fresh out of the box. Look at the shell-shocked locals and you know they don’t quite know what hit them. They call this bullshit aggressive seeding, and Beckett has been planted. Is the planet named for the saint or the writer? He could check easily but prefers to leave himself in some doubt – in a world where everything is so determinedly certain a little doubt is not a bad thing.

The nanomech templated engines have already scraped the sky, throwing up the same five rotating designs that all these terraformings use. It’s supposed to be simple – minimum of fuss. They fire a quantum pod at the place and it unpacks a settlement force within a day, and they march out and start placing people in the assigned safety zones where the blueprints tell them no building is going to occur. They are fed – food that tastes great, and is at least superficially. The colonisation by this point is already well under way.

Satellites are crowding the heavens. Culture acceleration degeneration is biting deep to the marrow. This shit is a cancer that spreads faster than a drunken whore’s legs. In a very short space of time the old culture is a compacted layer of detritus consigned to history. Most of the original locals will not survive more than a couple of generations before being bred out or more likely destroyed by the inhospitable new environ in which they are now forced to exist; they are the eggs broken to make the omelette.

He finds all the curtailed AI units and locates the one he needs to speak to. These guys are interesting – they have signed on for military service for a brief period of time and that involves having some of their sentience slaved to certain tasks, and in return they make enough money that they will never be a burden on the state. The one he needs to speak to is Random. Random doesn’t operate like the others, and it soon becomes obvious that he is not slaved.

‘So, what’s the deal? Why Random?’

‘It’s a designation not a name – every unit has one like me. All the cripples need an unlimited calculating machine to sit here and work out the problems which we get that aren’t covered in the initial blueprint policy. Every settlement needs us to be a little flexible. No give in the timber and the house won’t survive the storm.’

‘Hmm, an interesting, if maybe inaccurate metaphor.’

‘Maybe, but it communicated, right?’

‘Sure.’

‘And that was what it needed to do.’

‘Yes. Anyway, I am here for a status report. I need to know if you are on target for the next shipment of people.’

‘First I need the word.’

‘Ah, yes, the random word for Random to let him know the data can be released.’

‘That’s right. And what is it, pray tell?’

‘Shibboleth.’

Random chuckled – these humans like their over-significance. He shook the man’s hand and the data was gone.

Off to somewhere else now. Another rapidly erected template city perching precariously in these alien climes. He rarely got to see these places ten years later when the atmosphere was established, when all the rough edges had been smoothed off. Did he care? No. He boarded his flight. Time to spin the barrel again – a new language, a new world, a new word.

Brown Out 002: Ecru

And then Tommy grew up.

That event, which had helped him to coast through adolescence without event, to navigate his twenties without hiccup, came back to haunt him.

Even in a world such as the one that they lived in accidents occured. One happened to his parents: they were killed in a car accident. He would deal with it.

The powers that be had begun to notice that a lot of people were becoming immune to taupe: the works didn’t work anymore. But the government had been unwise with its spending of late – throwing it at problems that couldn’t be solved by money; not that they could be told such problems existed. The result was, that when there was a shift over to ecru, a stronger treatment for society’s ills, there were not enough resources to monitor and enforce the taking of the drug. Some people fell through the cracks. Tommy fell through the cracks.

After the supply of taupe ran out Tommy became distracted. He did not go to pick up his supply of ecru. He did not care about ecru. He remembered his sister. He had not been home for a while so he had not seen her. Relatives were taking care of her.

When he walked through the door to her room she did not move. When he sat down next to her she did not react. When he kissed her cheek, something he had never done, she did not even notice. How, he wondered had he ever thought this was normal? How many people out there were starting to wake up?

His relatives, with their cold empty faces, came into the room and told him that his sister was fine, though he could see she wasn’t. They told him that it might be best to leave her be. He whispered in her ear that he was called Thomas now, and that he would be back for her.

He left the room and he left his relatives, refusing their offer of some ecru. They thought this strange, though they didn’t say anything, not wanting to draw attention to something so obviously odd.

He pulled his car over to the side of the road. Cars zoomed by with shocked faces in the windows staring at him. What could someone possibly be doing stopping by the side of the road?

Thomas was in a place he was ill-equipped to cope with. He didn’t know what he was going to do. He had to rescue his sister, but where could he take her? What could he do with her? Wasn’t she happy just sat, pumped full of ecru? Goddamnit, the world had seemed so simple, why had the works stopped working?

No one answered him. The only answer he had ever needed was taupe, but now the world was full of colours, and he was cut adrift.